Musicals are cool in Hollywood again
La La Land is expected to continue its winning streak at the Oscars on Sunday
From Singin' In The Rain to The Wizard Of Oz, musicals did not traditionally see much love from the Oscars.
But La La Land has changed all that, tapping into a desire for escapism and sending Hollywood scrambling to dust off its dancing shoes.
With a leading 14 Academy Award nominations - including best picture, director, actor, actress and screenplay - Damien Chazelle's love letter to Los Angeles is a favourite to waltz away with an armful of Oscars come Sunday (US time) and revive musicals as a force to be reckoned with.
"The country is so sad right now, and La La Land is the only escapist movie," said Craig Zadan, co-producer of Chicago, the last musical to win a best picture Oscar, in 2003.
"The others are artistically wonderful, but they are not necessarily peppy and boosting you into a flight of fancy. The cards are all aligned for this to be the year of the musical again."
It has been a long time coming. Musicals have long been snubbed in the top categories by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
"That is probably because musicals just aren't as cool as they used to be, and Academy members care a lot about what is cool," said Tom O'Neil, founder of awards website Gold Derby.
"The miraculous thing about La La Land is that it is anti-cool - shamelessly and joyously old-fashioned. It is performing so well with Oscar voters because of its impressive craftsmanship."
Only 10 musicals have won the coveted best picture award in the Oscars' 89-year history.
Some awards-watchers think La La Land could win up to 11 Oscars, a feat that would tie it with all-time record holders such as Titanic.
La La Land's success is also changing perceptions about the genre at Hollywood movie studios, which have been slow to catch up with the trend elsewhere.
Shows such as Glee and live versions of musicals such as Grease and Hairspray have brought in big television audiences, while Broadway hit Hamilton has given musicals new respectability.
Movie musicals have often been associated with large budgets, big casts and long rehearsals for their singers, musicians and dancers.
La La Land, however, cost a modest US$30 million to make and has taken US$300 million at the global box office.
"I would say there is a buzz going round the studios right now, everyone is looking for the next musical," said Zadan.